Gabriel Obaje

Gabriel Obaje

Name: Gabriel Obaje

Job title: Process Engineer

Company: KBR

Country: UK
A-levels: Chemistry, Maths and Physics
University: Swansea University

I have grown up with science in my life from a young age. I am from Nigeria and my dad is a geologist, working for an oil and gas company. My interactions with him and my interest in science helped me to decide to pursue a career in engineering.

Culture shock

Making the move from Nigeria to the UK to study was a big culture shock as you can imagine. It’s a different system here and getting used to a different way of life, as well as getting to grips with a chemical engineering course took some getting used to!

I studied for my BEng at Swansea University, UK before moving to the University of Cambridge, UK to complete my Masters.

I can’t tell you that the course at Swansea was what I had expected because I really didn’t know what to expect! Of course, I had read about the different modules that we would be studying but most of them are new areas of learning for everyone, and you don’t really understand the detail until you get started.

But all of these unknowns made for a good surprise, not a bad one. It was an interesting course and I particularly enjoyed thermodynamics and the practical work.

Spending time in industry

At the end of my second year, I spent a year working in industry for a china clay mining company in Cornwall, UK. I worked in a process development role and did lots of on-site testing with equipment. Spending time in industry really helped me to put all of my theoretical learning into perspective and I could better understand how it was applicable to professional chemical engineering.

I had decided fairly early on during my studies that I wanted to work in the oil and gas sector. However, the work I completed on my design project made me think about going down a more design-based route.  I also wanted to work in London and, by the time I brought all of these things together, KBR was a good fit.

I joined the company in 2007 and my first project experience was working on the design of a gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar.  I worked as part of the interface team which meant talking to and working with design contractors, developing drawings and conducting HAZOP assessments. I then moved onto a carbon capture project in Norway where I worked as a process engineer.  Since then I’ve worked on a wide range of projects and with lots of different people. That is the nature of working for a contractor.

A typical week?

There is no such thing as a typical working week in my job. You could be working on aspects of a project which involves office based design work and site or vendor visits. You could also be working on a proposal for a new project, or visiting a local school to encourage pupils to consider a career in science and engineering. 

In the long term, I’d love to get to engineering or managing director level. I know that I want to stick with chemical engineering though because you’re never bored and the work is so varied and rewarding – both personally and financially.

If you’re looking for variety and like science and maths, you should consider chemical engineering. It’s unbelievable how many different areas of business you can go into and if you have a passion for innovation like I do, it’s a really good choice.

Chemical engineers are doing things that are going to be very important to our future. Making key contributions to projects such as for the production of new fuels, or improving energy efficiency of existing plants that lead to environmental improvements is fascinating as we try to optimise the process and make things more efficient. As a chemical engineer, you can be at the cutting edge of innovation and able to make a real difference.